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Active during the late '70s and early '80s, Mandré was a Motown-supported alias of one-man funk band Michael Andre Lewis. Prior to making his helmeted funk hero a reality, the Omaha, Nebraska native was a close associate of Buddy Miles, worked with LaBelle and Johnny Guitar Watson, and led the band Maxayn, a platform for partner Maxayn Lewis. After he replaced George Duke in Frank Zappa's band, as heard first on Zoot Allures (1976), Lewis signed to Motown and made three out-there albums for the label: Mandré (1977), Mandré Two (1978), and M3000 (1979). By his label's standard, these were not commercially successful recordings. The debut, promoted with full-page trade magazine ads that announced "The Masked Marauder Is Among Us," and featuring a duly nutty cover of Zappa's "Dirty Love," generated little interest. Its "Solar Flight (Opus I)," an instrumental disco-funk exploration, was played at David Mancuso's Loft parties and maintained a six-week stay on Billboard's Soul Singles chart. Only the third album touched the Soul LPs chart. Few heard Mandré 4 (1982), released on Lewis' FutureGroove label, due to a false warehouse fire alarm that set off sprinklers and destroyed most of its small pressing. Lewis hung up his helmet -- which had been created by costume designer Bill Whitten, who later made Michael Jackson's famous white glove -- but continued to work behind the scenes and was deeply involved with emerging studio technology, including the design of Roger Linn's LinnDrum. The Netherlands-based Rush Hour label reissued Mandré 4 on various formats in 2010. Lewis died two years later in Shreveport, Louisiana. Digital reissues of the Motown albums appeared in 2014, the same year the Polish Fever Dream label pressed compact disc copies of the debut.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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